Olympics award delays the BBC's move north

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The Independent Online

BBC Sport, with a television and radio staff of 400, had been due to move in 2009 but that looks certain to be postponed until after the London Games.

Dave Gordon, acting head of sport, and Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, have been discussing the move after the success in Singapore of Sebastian Coe's bid team on 6 July. As the likely host broadcaster of the 2012 Games, the BBC wants to avoid having to pay for hundreds of staff and outside broadcast units to travel south to the capital in what they fear would be seen as a huge waste of licence-payers' money. They are expected to stay at White City in west London until 2013.

The BBC dedicated 1,200 hours of coverage to the Athens Games and its healthy viewing figures formed part of the London bid's sales pitch to the International Olympic Committee. Paula Radcliffe's 10,000m race attracted 12.8 million viewers with 10 million tuning in to watch Kelly Holmes winning the 1500m gold. "It was the first thing anyone was talking about in the sports department after the bid victory" a BBC source said. "It would be insane to move to Manchester and spend much of the next year travelling up and down the M1 for the Games. It's a huge undertaking for sport and it makes sense to postpone the move. I think that rather than letting the deadline drift you will see them make a positive statement in favour of London soon."

BBC Sport was to move to Manchester in 2009 but the deadline is believed to have drifted by a year following the appointment of a new chairman after the Hutton inquiry.

The drive to move has also lost impetus after the departure this year of one of its chief architects, Peter Salmon, the former head of sport who once worked for Granada in Manchester.

Mr Salmon has been one of the main proponents of the BBC's plans to move a significant chunk of production and commissioning capability out of London and to establish a second base for the broadcaster in Manchester. Pat Loughrey, the BBC's director of nations and regions, who worked with Mr Salmon on the project, has taken over responsibility for the move, costed at £500m. As part of the relocation, children's television is also due to move north.

An announcement about BBC Sport was delayed until after the Olympic decision because it was felt it would be interpreted by the International Olympic Committee as the prospective host broadcaster deserting London.